Cor Hendriks – The Macaws (18): The Stolen Eyes (ATU 321)
The cave or hole, wherein the boy in the Greek version ‘The Church and the Bird Nightingale’ seeks shelter and that leads to the dragon, is the same hole, wherein ‘Strong Hans’ goes down to the underworld (where the dragon lives that holds the princess captive); the winged horse, that brings the Greek hero back to the crossroads, where he left his brothers, is the same as the eagle that brings Hans (Sbadilon, et cetera) back to the upper-world. The curing of the blind foster-parent is also present in several ATU 301 versions: The Son of the Mare, left behind in the pit, comes down in the underworld at a house of an old blind couple; their eyes had been stolen ten years ago by the Zanes (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z%C3%A2n%C4%83). He is accepted by the old couple as their foster-son, and they give him their 30 sheep to herd, warning him for the Zanes, who live on the right. Three days he goes to the left, but then he makes a flute, goes to the right and soon meets a Zane, who at the tune of the flute starts to dance. After a while he breaks the flute, which grieves the Zane, but the boy will make a new one, splits a tree and asks the Zane to take out its heart [the trick is of course well known from the 13th century novel of Reynard the Fox, who did it with the bear]. As soon as the Zane has put her hands in the tree the boy takes out the axe and the Zane is caught and has to give back the stolen eyes and to reveal how to repair them (with water of life) [Massenbach 1958, 204-210. Cf. ATU 321: Eyes Recovered from Witch, a boy takes service with a blind couple, warned not to let goats (sheep) wander beyond certain point, he does so and there defeats the witch who has stolen the blind couple’s eyes; he restores the eyes [D2184.108.40.206] (Thompson 1961, 112)] .
The same scene is present in the Rumanian version ‘Petru Firitschell’, who, left behind at the bottom of the pit, finds after some searching a corridor that leads to a forest with a cabin, where an old blind woman is eating her mameliga (maize porridge). Petru eats sneaky from her dish, but she notices it and takes him as her foster son, lets him herd her sheep, but warns him for the Dragon ravine, because the dragons have stolen her eyes. He also goes playing flute in the Dragon ravine, and lures several dragons outside the ravine, their territory, and convinces them to put their claws in the tree, he has cleft for the occasion, to make them suitable for playing the flute. As soon as the claws are inside, Petru pulls out the keg and threatening with the axe he demands the ‘eyes’ of his Wood-mother back. They tell him she has to wash her eyes in the milk-pond at the Dragon ravine. He chops off their heads (as Mare-Son had killed the Zane) and brings his Wood-mother to the milk-pond. [Schott 1975, 65ff].
The same or similar adventures has an North American Indian hero, called Waowalis, the shaman, in a tale of the Bella Coola in British Columbia, collected between 1922 and 1924 by Thomas McIlwraith from Jim Pollard and Captain Schoener. After having punished his wife and the man she fornicated with, Waowalis flees in his canoe pursued by the relatives of the man he killed. He has taken his foster-son with him and spreads a magical mist to escape his pursuers. The two are going very far away to find a place to settle and come to a big settlement, but from only one of the houses comes smoke. Waowalis leaves the boy at the canoe and takes a look. All the houses are abandoned, except for the one where the smoke comes from, and inside is a blind old man cooking food. In the same room his beautiful daughter is sitting braiding cedar-bark mats. He sneaks inside and sits without a word next to the old man. When this one puts some food from the cooking pot on a plate, Waowalis takes it away and hides it under his cloak. The old man fumbles in vain for his food. He complains to his daughter: ‘What I have cooked I have lost. Somebody must have taken it from me.’ She does not look up from her work, while she says laughing: ‘You know as well as I do, that there is no one left but we two.’ The old man takes again some food from the pot and also this time Waowalis manages to hide the food. The old man complains again to his daughter and this time she looks up and sees the strange visitor. ‘You are right,’ she says, ‘there is a man sitting next to you.’ And she asks Waowalis what he wants, where he came from and why he stole her father’s meal. He says it is just a game and gives the food back to the old man. He has fallen in love with the beautiful girl and asks the old man if he can marry his daughter. ‘If you make me see again, you may have her,’ says the old man. ‘I am capable of much,’ says Waowalis, takes the head of the old man between his hands, spits him in the eyes and smears the spit with his fingers. Almost immediately the light comes back in his eyes. The father keeps his promise and gives his permission to marry his daughter. They ask Waowalis if he has come alone and he tells about his foster-son waiting in the canoe at the beach, and the boy is called inside, and the four of them sit down to eat. As there is not enough water in the house, Waowalis orders the boy to go get some. But the old man and his daughter keep him back. ‘Don’t go there,’ they say, ‘You can’t get any water here. There lives an evil monster in the water that sucks everyone down that comes near. This Snoesg has killed all the villagers!’ – ‘I am stronger than whatever Snoesg!’ replies Waowalis, and orders the boy to take a bucket. The boy walks in front with a rope tied round his waist, held by Waowalis. The moment the boy kneels down to take the water, the Snoesg appears, with his horrible mouth open, sucking up the boy. Waowalis makes a throwing motion with the deadly point of his wand, and there follows a great agitation in the waters, but soon the monster comes floating up dead. The shaman cuts the throat of the creature and pulls his son out, still alive and well. The old man and his daughter have also come to see the spectacle of the dead enemy and are beside themselves from joy. In the stomach of the monster are the remains of his victims and the old man and his daughter recognize their co-villagers. Waowalis brings them all to life. When life is back to normal, Waowalis marries the girl of his choice and in due course he becomes one of the leaders of the tribe [Berge 1987, I, 113-115. The rope round the waist seems pointless; Waowalis should have pulled before the Snoesg had a chance to suck up the boy, not afterwards].
Similar events can also be seen in the introduction of the epic tale of Tektebei Mergen, collected by Radloff from Altai-Turkish tribes in South Siberia. The story starts with a variant of Joseph’s Dream (Gen. 37:5-11). A once rich, but now poor old couple with three sons worry about their future and the father orders his sons to climb each a mountain and have a dream at the top. The next morning they come back and the oldest has dreamed that they will get ten times as rich as they were before, just like the second, but third has dreamed that there is no rescue: ‘Poor chaps we will be: my father and my mother were grim wolves, running off into the mountains. On my right side the sun shone, on my left the moon, on my forehead shone the morning star.’ That is what he said, whereupon the father commands his elder sons: ‘Kill the one with these signs [of the future] and bring me his blood.’ His two sons take a bowl, and go with the youngest outside, followed by a yellow dog. The youngest pleads to them for his life: ‘Kill this yellow dog and bring his blood to my father.’ He weeps and the elder brothers kill the dog, bring its blood to their father, who drinks it and is satisfied. The youngest brother goes and goes, as these things go in tales. In this case the storyteller has a nice twist to it. The hero hears rattling behind him, looks around, sees nothing. He hears a cart coming, looks around, again sees nothing, and then he finally discovers that all his flesh has dwindled away and that his bones are making this rattling sounds [compare the Bororo-hero on the plateau]. It is at this point that he comes to a yurt. He goes inside, and meat is boiling in a kettle. On the bed are lying an old woman and an old man, both without eyes. The youth eats a piece of the meat and a bowl of the soup, and wonders how the old folks will take out the meat, as they are eyeless. The old man grumbles: ‘Golden nap, fill yourself! Golden dish, fill yourself!’ Thereupon the meat comes by itself out of the kettle. The two old folks join hands, stand up, eat the meat in the nap. The man says: ‘Hey oldie, this meat smells funny.’ She replies: ‘What smell can have come in? I don’t know. Pull the copper handle, and we will see what has come in.’ The man stands up, waves the copper handle around, and it grabs the boy by the coat-tail. They both grab the boy and ask him who he is. He says he is an orphan, all alone in the world; he wants to be an eye to the eyeless, a foot to the footless. The old couple adopt him, and he makes a bow and arrows from wood and shoots game, that he brings home on his back, which is heavy, and he would like to have a horse. When he comes to the yurt a iron-grey horse with a golden saddle and golden bridle is standing there bound to the iron poplar. Admiring he walks round the poplar and then discovers at the entrance-post of the yurt a beautiful black bow, and wonders whose they might be. So he runs inside to ask his father: ‘Which hero’s strong horse and bow are they?’ His father says: ‘O, my child, in my youth they were mine; now they are yours.’ The father says more, but the youth doesn’t listen any longer, runs outside, jumps on the horse, rides this way and that way, making the dust of heaven fall down on earth, the dust of earth rise up to heaven. Then he binds it again to the iron poplar and goes in the yurt to eat. The old man gives him a warning: ‘Towards the sunset there will be a very big way; don’t ride on this way, my child, ride towards sunrise.’ To our hero you must not say such things, (like Enkidu?) he does them right away. He girds the mighty black bow as well as the mighty black sword, mounts the iron-grey horse, and rides towards sunset [it is of course a long way]. That it is winter, he notices at the hoar on his collar, that it is summer at his heated shoulderblade. When he rides over the Mount Aryskan the horse jumps back. He asks the horse what it has seen. It tells him to look up and down. He does and sees Ker Jutpa standing there with his upper lip snapping to heaven and his lower lip to the earth. The youth turns his horse into a black crow that flies up to heaven, while he becomes a horse-turd, rolling over the ground. With a nail in his hand his steps into Ker Jutpa’s mouth and nails his under-lip to the earth. He takes another nail and wants to nail the upper-lip to heaven, when Ker Jutpa says: ‘Wait a moment! What kind of flying thing has nailed my mouth? Let it loose a bit, I want to speak a word.’ The youth lets go a bit, asks about the eyes, and Ker Jutpa says: ‘Gird, taking my belly-fat, it around you. In my entrails will be a silver box, in it will be a golden box, with a silver box in it. Take this silver box and throw it in the milk-lake.’ Then the youth nails the upper-lip to heaven and stamps the belly of Ker Jutpa and out of it come cattle, people, money, things. Some of the people complain that they lived in a warm country and now have to live in the cold; others thank the person that has liberated them from the darkness [compare: the Israelites liberated from the darkness of Egypte]. Now the youth takes the belly-fat of Ker Jupta, wraps it around the iron poplar, and the iron poplar burns completely down [compare: witch-girdle; ‘dress of Deianira’-motif in ATU 516B, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poison_dressh]. Ker Jupta’s entrails he throws into the milk-lake; the milk-lake all dries out. He thrashes the silver box, then thrashes the golden box that was in it, finally also thrashes the silver box that was in it and finds white cloth tied into a knot. He takes this bundle home together with the money that comes out of the box and the liberated people give to him together with white cattle and other things. At home the old man and old woman are asleep. He opens the bundle and puts the eyes back in, then sweats himself by the fire, smoking tobacco. Then the old folk awake, stand up, and their eyes are very bright, very beautiful. They see the young man, the old man takes his right hand, the old woman his left hand and they both kiss him. Then they go outside and see all the cattle, people, things, and are very happy. They dance with the young man in the house, saying: ‘Be a man better than all men.’ And the old man asks if he wants to take his changes. The youth accepts, and the old man shakes himself and turns into a lion, then a grim wolf, a red fox, a grey hawk, then he becomes Tastarakai with mangy foal and scabby head, and finally he becomes Tektebei Mergen with double braids, with black silk tassel, with black silk fur, with iron-grey horse. Hereafter the story becomes a version of ATU 665 [Radloff 1866, 1, 31-59 nº5].
A different story about the stolen eyes has many traits in common; this is the Tamil story of ‘The blind heroine’. The raja’s daughter has because of bad omens been left behind in the jungle, where she discovers the palace of a prince held prisoner by his own older sister who wants to marry him with her daughter. The girl is discovered by this cruel sister, who plucks out her eyes that she put in a bowl, and throws her in a dry well, where she is discovered by a passing sadhu (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadhu), who pulls her out with a rope and takes her home, where he feeds her from his daily alms. But because she is blind, rats come and eat from her plate. These rats take tiny bits to the Rat-Raja, who says: ‘This is really nice stuff! Where did you get it from?’ – ‘There is this girl, that doesn’t chase us away, when she is eating; it is from her plate.’ The raja concludes that there is something wrong with the girl and he wants the rats to find it out. So the rats look her all over and finally a lame rat discovers she has no eyes. He reports it to the rat-raja, who thinks that the eyes must still be around somewhere, and again he sends out his rats, who search through every house, and again it is the lame rat, who goes into the house of the sister, where he sees the eyes in the bowl. He takes them out and brings them to the raja, who orders him to put them back now, while she is still asleep. So the lame rat, holding the eyes with his tail, puts them back in her eye-sockets. In the morning the girl wakes up cured and can take revenge on her rival and marry the prince [Blackburn 2001, 73ff nº19. The theft of the eyes by the lame rat is as the theft of the ring in ATU 560].
The theme of the stolen eyes is also part of the Tartar epic of Ai Mergen and Altyn Kus, which is basically a version of ATU 315: The Faithless Sister. Halfway the epic the faithless daughter (in this case) has triumphed after putting her lover up to killing her father Ai Mergen, and after that her mother Ala Mangnyk is pursued, who has just enough time to give her just-born son (with silver upper body and golden lower part) to Ai Mergen’s speaking white-blue horse, who, also pursued, rather than having it die by the hand of Tjeder Mös (the husband of Altyn Aryg the faithless daughter) has it devoured by Ker Palyk (‘Leviathan’) of the sea. So the white horse swirls it into the sea, just before being caught by Tjeder Mös, who brings the horse with Ala Mangnyk bound to its tail to Altyn Aryg, who makes her mother carry water, beating her with a tanning-iron. The white-blue horse is tied to a tree and on its back lands a magpie, chopping at its flesh, and the horse complains to Ala Mangnyk that she is now water-carrier for those evil dogs. Then the magpie speaks: ‘At the mouth of the White Sea, in the nine-cornered stone house are my blind father and deaf mother, both very old. I myself live up there in the hand of the Seven Creators as Purkan having become girl. A on the sea floating young boy have I caught, brought to my blind father and deaf mother.’ But the child (Altyn Kus) kept crying for his mother Ala Mangnyk and Ai Mergen’s white horse, so she went looking for them. Ala Mangnyk frees the horse of his fetters and flees to the mouth of the White Sea […] At a certain point in the story Altyn Kus shoots with an arrow through the silk-thread which is the life of Kajan Solan, who dies immediately. The aged Kattan Kan (the blind father) tells him that Kajan Solan has in the past cut off both of his thumbs, splitting them has put the fire of both his eyes in them, and has put them in the ears of the exquisite yellow horse. Altyn Kus goes to the corpse of the horse, finds in the right ear both thumbs, and brings them to Kattan Kan, who opens both thumbs, and both his varicolored eyes are shining like the Morning Star, like the Evening Star. ‘O my child, Altyn Kus, wash both my eyes with soap!’ The as hero born Altyn Kus took his two eyes, washes them with soap, puts them on their place, smears them with pure medicine, and the ancient Kattan Kan is 1000 times more beautiful than before, and can look to the edge of the nine countries, through three earth-layers, and he gives his daughter Ai Pürtjül (the magpie) to Altyn Kus as wife [Radloff 1868, 385-499 nº14: ‘Ai Mergän und Altyn Kus’ from Sagai, NW of Askys, family Kyrgys].
In the Balinese tale ‘The Old and the Young Witch’ the action is all about the stolen eyes. The son of the king of Koripan is married with two wives, the princesses of Daha and of Bajan. The prince is fond of hunting and one day he gets lost and arrives in the mountains at the house of two witches, mother and daughter, who give him a magic potion which makes him think of nothing else than the young witch, and one day he returns with her to his palace, where his wives turn out to be pregnant. The jealous witch gouges out their eyes and brings them to her mother, who keeps the eyes of the princess of Daha in a gold box and those of the princess of Bajan in a silver box. The princesses give birth respectively to a boy and a girl, but are so distraught that they prey the gods to take the babies in their care which they do, and the children grow up in heaven. When the boy Bintjang has grown up, he is sent, instructed by the gods, to the earth, where he visits his mother who is living with the other princess in a hut. He takes them to a place in the mountains where he creates a magic palace for them. Then he goes to his father who takes him in as a friend for the son he has with the witch; she though recognizes the boy by a birthmark and writes a letter to her mother, that the boy has to deliver (Uriah-letter, 2 Samuel 11:15) together with Baboso, the son of the witch. On the road Bintjang asks Baboso to borrow him his ankle-bracelets (as specified in the letter) and the grandmother thinks he is her grandson and kills Baboso. To Bintjang she entrusts all her secrets and in the middle of the night he runs off with the two boxes with the eyes after setting the place on fire, burning the witch. He immediately goes to his mother and places the eyes from the golden box back in their sockets and does the same thing for the princess of Bajan and brings back her daughter from heaven. When the young witch goes to visit her mother and discovers the ashes she becomes mad and finally dies, which puts an end to the spell on the prince of Koripan, who after a long search finds the magic castle with his two wives and two children [Indonesische Sprookjes, Rijswijk 1991, 109-113 nº37: ‘De oude en de jonge heks’].
Another Indonesian version comes from the island Lombok, and is called ‘The daughter of the giant’. Here King Panji Anom, married with nine wives but childless, has gone on a pilgrimage with his wives to Tanjung Menangis, a holy place at the beach, goes there on a fishing expedition with his minister, and catches a big chest. In it is a lovely girl, called Danawa Sari, and the king is immediately smitten, proposes, and she accepts. After the pilgrimage has been completed, the raja returns with his ten wives, and soon the nine wives one after the other become pregnant, but the king has only eyes for Danawa Sari, and builds on her request an underground palace for his other wives, which is spacious but has only one exit-door that is locked from the outside. The women one after the other give birth, five boys and four girls, but one day Danawa Sari has managed to get the key, enters the underground palace, takes away the eyes of all the women, except one eye, and magically kills all the children except one, the son of the one-eyed woman. The (17) eyes she sends to her father, the King of the Giants, Danawa Kembar [The Danavas in Hindu mythology are descendants from Danu by the sage Kaśyapa. They were giants who made war against the gods (Dowson 1973, 80). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danava_(Hinduism)]. The boy grows up and one day digs a tunnel to escape. The raja is much pleased with his son, but Danawa Sari sends the boy with an (Uriah-)letter to her father living on the gunung(mount) Kembar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Kembar). Before going there the boy visits the minister and has him read the letter. Thereupon the minister writes a new letter, saying that the bringer is his grandson; he should teach him magic and give him the eyes of the other wives of the king. The boy arrives with the sealed letter at the giant-king, who after reading it receives the boy cordially, teaches him magic: the art of transformation and of flying. When the boy is fully instructed, he gives him a box with the eyes, and the prince flies with it to the underground palace and gives all the wives of the king their eyes back, after which he takes revenge on Dawani Sari in a transformation-fight, in which she finally falls down wounded, where she is stabbed by the nine wives with sharp long knives and poured over with vinegar and salt; and she dies under terrible pains [Indonesische Sprookjes, Rijswijk 1991, 125-129 nº41: ‘De dochter van de reus’; also Aman 1988, 56-64: ‘Danawa Sari, The Giant’s Daughter’].